Charles applied for a patent for the Visigraph in 1906. Patent no.893,947 was issued to him in 1908. Actual production of the typewriter began in 1910 first by the Visigraph Typewriter Co. and then, starting in 1919, by the C. Spiro Mfg. Co. which renamed the typewriter to the Visigraph Standard. Both companies were located in New York City. In 1921 the business was sold to the Federal Adding Machine Co., also of New York City, and the Visigraph was again renamed to the Federal Visible. All production ended by 1922 when the Hammond Typewriter Co. purchased the Federal company.

Visigraph Typewriter

1910 - 1921

The Visigraph Typewriter Co. then C. Spiro Mfg. Co. then Federal Adding Machine Co

New York, NY US

From the man that invented such unique typewriters as the Bar-Lock, Columbia Index and Columbia Music Typewriters, this Visigraph was probably the most conventional example by Charles Spiro (1850 - 1933). To Be fair, he can't be blamed. By the time he was developing the Visigraph, ca.1906, such frontstrike, four-bank, Underwood clones were the obvious direction in which the industry was heading. It was a calculated business decision.

Charles Spiro

Known serial numbers of the Visigraph range between 10,000 and 14,000 with one outlier, a Federal Visible in the collection of an Australian museum, with a serial number in the sixty-thousands. About half the known examples were produced for non-Anglo markets and at least one has a wide carriage. In 2013 there were just 10 known examples and by 2104 there were 15. Now, in 2020, there are 20 known worldwide. I suspect there are 20 more to be found.

Visigraph Typewriter S.N.10122  (1).jpg

At 1st glance it could easily be mistaken for an LC Smith No.5, which is exactly what happened when I found my 1st one in 2015. However, it was a very solid, a very well made machine that was the culmination of "...twenty eight years' experience in the building of writing machines. It was invented by Mr. Charles Spiro, who introduced visible typewriters." So says a 1912 trade catalog for the Visigraph.

Visigraphs typed 84 characters from a single-shift, 4-bank keyboard. They had a frontstrike typebar arrangement. Ink was transferred by auto-reversing ribbon. A backspace lever was standard with each typewriter. Options included a choice of 6 different typefaces, 7 different carriage lengths and 7 different platen lengths. Though carriages and platens could be purchased separately, they could also me purchased together. The base price for a Visigraph with a 10" carriage cost $100.

Charles Spiro did not develop anymore typewriters after the Visigraph for himself but he did outsource his expertise. One such example is the Gourland.

Have a Visigraph or Federal Visible Typewriter for sale? Email me at or call +1 (860) 729-2252